Far from ideal. Photo: Flickr/Lee
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Women urinating on the street in the small hours: the mark of a Britain in crisis, or the ultimate bonding experience?

Bond-forming though it may be, weeing in public is not ideal for women. And even Scandinavians haven't found the solution.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk of “safe spaces” in feminist circles. Frankly, the only safe space I’m interested in right now is one in which women can take long, beery slashes at 3am.

“Where do Swedish women piss at night?” is a phrase that’s now tattooed onto my Google search history until the end of days. The story of how it got there is one of sorrow, toil and public urination.

It’s puke o’clock in the West End. Piccadilly Circus is a wilted salad of the world’s least imaginative tourists and the world’s most depressing street performers, at the best of times. At around 2am on a Saturday night it makes this seamless transition from “just plain crap” to “Boschian Hellscape”. I’d know because, pretty much wherever in London I go out, this is where I’ll end up waiting for the night bus back to the south-west.

Usually, at this point in the evening, I need a wee. On this particular occasion, I really need a wee. I’m doing the dance. My bladder is writing an all-caps email to social services. A “code yellow” klaxon is ringing in my ears. Previously I’d probably sprinted three times in my life. One of them involved getting to the buffet at a Jewish wedding. This time, the fourth perhaps, I’m legging it towards McDonald’s on Shaftsbury Avenue. McDonald’s, the safe haven of late-night piss-needers. And, at this point, the golden arches are more beautiful to me than the sun rising behind Beyoncé riding a snow leopard through an alpine meadow. Until, that is, I get to the door and a couple of knackered looking employees are locking up.

At an inhuman speed, I scope out nearby pissing spots. One otherwise-empty side street contains a passed-out suited man in a doorway, a twinkling puddle of sick at his feet. Can I wee in front of, albeit comatose, puke-man? I probably shouldn’t. I make my way towards the Eros statue, under which a group of Italian teenagers are piling thundering accolades on their comrade who had both the wit and the gall to put a traffic cone on his head.

I need inspiration. Fast. In the gutter, I spot a discarded pint glass. Suddenly I’m a genius. I’m Marie Curie, I’m Ada Lovelace; I’m the cleverest bitch alive. I grab the glass and make a dash down Piccadilly and hunt down the emptiest side street. I find one sparsely dotted with tired drunks. This will do. Luckily, I’m wearing a skirt. I lift the pint glass to my crotch and, with what I thought was an impressive level of discreetness, pull my knickers to one side. I begin to piss. Boy do I piss. In fact, I piss more than a pint. I’m not Curie. I’m not Lovelace. I’m an adult woman standing in her own piss. I’m a disaster.

So back to “Where do Swedish women piss at night?” For women, emptying your bladder in the wee (ha) hours is usually an ordeal. Unequipped with a “the world is my fucking urinal” gammon hose, we usually rely on our friends to form a modesty circle around us while we take a fumbling slash. When we piss down alleys together and watch our glistening urine trails cross paths, we cement friendships. Welcome to the sisterhood.

Bond-forming as it may be, using your friends as human shields while you whip out your minge in public is far from ideal. It occurs to me that the Scandinavians, of all people, must have an answer to this. You can always rely on those Scands to be socially progressive and design savvy. Surely they must have invented some kind of sculpture-like all-night public toilet, where women can wee in peace. Surely.

As you can probably imagine, my Google search was unfruitful. I still don’t know where Swedish women piss at night. But, wherever it is, I bet it’s lovely.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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